Five Lessons from Yoga for Your Work Life

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In their new book, Maren and Jamie Showkeir show how we can take the same principles that guide Yoga as a healthful and mindful physical practice and apply them off the mat in our work lives.

Yoga is translated in Sanskrit as “yoke” or union, and is a practice designed to keep you connected to something larger than yourself —much in the way work does. While millions are familiar with the physical practice, it is a fraction of what yoga offers. Indian sage Patanjali outlines Eight Limbs of yoga in the Sutras, written between 100 BCE and 500 BCE. 

Based on this ancient wisdom, here are five pragmatic practices for the modern workplace. 

1. Breathing: Pranayama, the Fourth Limb, is about the power of breath control. Yogic breathing techniques can help you alter your mood, increase energy, decrease mental distress, develop patience, enhance focus, expel stress, and heighten clarity. One executive we know takes a deep inhale-exhale before answering a question, creating space that allows him to respond more thoughtfully.

2. Meditation: Of the Eight Limbs, the Seventh has been most scrutinized by researchers. Meditation, or dhyana, gives you the means to establish clarity around your intentions and your actions. It positively affects the neural pathways governing compassion, self-awareness and memory. It can ease depression and help with anger management. Many well-known corporations such as Aetna, Apple, General Mills, Google, Prentice-Hall Publishing and others recognize the benefits of this practice and found ways to integrate it into the workday. A daily time investment in this practice, even if it’s only a few minutes, can reap big benefits.

3. Non-stealing: Asteya is one of the five moral precepts that comprise yoga’s First Limb (yamas). Non-stealing brings to mind pilfering money or “stuff,” but more valuable things can be stolen, such as time, reputation and dignity. Consider the myriad ways time theft happens at work: Tardiness to meetings, wordy emails, lack of preparation and general procrastination. Gossiping at work steals time and is a misappropriation of reputation and dignity. Broadening your concept of theft is not only a moral issue, it’s practical — how much more efficient and effective can you be if you mindfully practice asteya?

4. Focusing: The Sixth Limb, dharana, is about training your mind with the same vigor and dedication that you exercise your body. Practicing dharana helps you avoid distractions and do-overs that eat into your productivity, including mindless fretting about things that are out of your control. Begin by abandoning the mythology of multitasking.  Research shows it’s impossible and worse, decreases your productivity.

5. Contentment: The Second Limb also is comprised of five precepts, called niyamas, that offer a framework for personal conduct. Santosha is about cultivating contentment regardless of what life hands you. If you feel yourself getting attached to an idea or outcome at work, the practice reminds your that control over events or people is an illusion. It doesn’t mean you don’t give work your best effort. Of course you do, while recognizing that your response to any outcome is a choice you make. Not only does fostering non-attachment keep you sane, it encourages openness to the kind of unconventional thinking that sparks creativity and innovation.


Five Negatives That Are Actually Positives for Introverts

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In her latest book, Jennifer Kahnweiler explains how introverts can influence organizations and people using strengths that they may not even have realized they have. One of the reasons introverts don't realize their strengths is because the pro-extrovert environment in which we operate which fails to see the shortcomings of certain extrovert behaviors.

Here are five qualities that introverts lack, which at first may seen like shortcomings, but as these points show, are ultimately strengths that give introverts a distinct advantage over their extroverted counterparts:

1. Introverts often lack the sort of confidence that others have to walk into a meeting or presentation knowing that they will be able to win over the others.  

Why is this good? The problem with having supreme confidence is that you're less aware of potential blind spots -- spots that others will raise and question. Because introverts don't have that ease of confidence, they prepare very carefully for all presentations and debates, which makes them far more likely to be able to anticipate and counter objections.

2. Introverts prefer writing to communicate (which seems more passive) over speaking (which is a more active form of communication).  

Why is this good? Being able to speak is a wonderful gift, but it is also one that occurs very much in the present. When we're talking, we can express ideas and concepts but we are still doing it on the fly and so our debates and exchanges are limited to what we can think up at the present time. Introverts tend to favor writing, which may seem ineffective in comparison, but in fact it
better than speaking. When we write, we are able to focus our ideas, form cogent arguments, and address all relevant points carefully. We're also able to edit ourselves to minimize misunderstanding (think of how often you've said the wrong thing as compared to how often you wrote the wrong thing).

3. Introverts don't talk much, which can lead to awkward silences and lulls in conversation.  

Why is this good?
Just because they're not talking, it doesn't mean they're ignoring you. In fact, what introverts do best is listen. Introverts prefer listening, which makes them better at understanding others and not seeing everything from their own point of view (which can be a terrific blind spot). You'll notice that all of those people who are often called "good listeners" are often introverts.

4. Introverts are not skilled at small talk and seem ill at ease around it.  

Why is this good? Small talk serves a purpose, but often it can get in the way of a substantive conversation or topic. Because of their single-minded focus, introverts are less likely to be distracted and more likely to stay on topic and on purpose, which is how things get done and people get convinced.

5. Introverts are wary of social media and are cautious about sharing a lot via social media outlets.  

Why is this good?
This is an obvious one if you have ever had to deal with those people who want everyone to know what they had for breakfast or want the whole world to know they are experiencing indigestion. Social media has devolved into self-obsession for many people but thankfully not for introverts. Because introverts are not fans of over-sharing, they use social media sparingly and more thoughtfully. This also means that when they do use social media, people notice.